Thursday, February 17, 2005

Rick Champion Opened A Hot Dog Stand - Nashville Rock Post 1978 Part Three

When Rick Champion began booking rock and roll bands at a club called Phranks & Steins off West End Avenue back in 1978 he set in motion a Nashville rock and roll revolution that shows no sign of ever stopping. Sure, there was rock and roll in Nashville before this event, but it was only after punk rock hit these shores that the DIY spirit charged the Mid-South with true electrical mayhem. So far in previous posts we’ve discussed the following rockers: Jason and the Nashville Scorchers, The Dusters, Practical Stylists, Forever Ungratical Corinaric Technikalation, Questionnaires, Dave Cloud, Cloverbottom, The Shazam, No Art, 69 Tribe, Walk The West, Chip and The Chiltons, White Animals, and The Young Nashvillians. Keep reading to see who my friend Dr. DD Blank and I dig up in this: Part 3 of Nashville Rock Post 1978. Keep in mind that this overview is not in order, nor does it seek to be an exhaustive one. We’ll leave that to the real historians out there.


Wally: Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks - From Night Flight cult video favorite to cultural icon, Webb Wilder is the man! Watch his long form videos featuring comedian Shane Caldwell. Read his detective novel. Listen to his phenomenal roots music. Webb is a true renaissance man. I like his version of “The Devil’s Right Hand” better than Steve Earle’s original…and the reason Earle is not on this list is because I consider him to be a country artist. If more folks lived their life by Webb’s credo “Work Hard…Rock Hard…Eat Hard…Sleep Hard…Grow Big…Wear Glasses If You Need ‘Em”, the world would be a better place. Webb also had a role in the movie, The Thing Called Love. It Came From Nashville was recently reissued with bonus tracks so be sure and get a copy. Webb also has a new album titled About Time due out on March 15th.

DD: Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks - Webb was a transplant to Nashville from Mississippi and he has been a definite positive addition to the scene. I first got to see him at the Glass Onion in Belle Meade years ago. It Came From Nashville is in the top five of rock records to come out of Nashville. It was fun. It rocked and it was fully realized. My faves were always “How Long Can She Last” and “Poolside”. What were yours?


BEST YEARS: 1985-present

DD: jack - The finest band to ever come out of Murfreesboro. When they were at their zenith and the pistons were all firing in unison, there wasn’t a finer band to ever play Lucy’s Record Shop or Summer Lights for that matter. An amalgam of the Sonics, Beefheart, Zappa, Pere Ubu, and the Kinks, they would be right at home in the current garage scene. They still play occasionally around town. Don’t miss them.

Wally: jack - Not a Nashville band!! They may play in the ‘ville, but they are a Murfreesboro group. DD and I argued about this until the fists were flying. After some black eyes and broken bones (like the days in the pit at an Intruder show) we gave up. He added the Murfreesboro bit and I agreed to include them here. They are personal friends of both of us so keep that in mind. I believe DD covered the influences well. When jack wants to be, they are one of the most courageous bands in the Mid-South combining a No New York sensibility with Creedence type pop smarts. Ooops, more influences noted!! They have been together since 1986 and I can still recall the shows at Murfreesboro dive bar Jabb’s, which usually degenerated into band members fighting to the present day mixture of drunkenness and polish. I said this statement years ago in my an issue of Anti-Society, but I’ll say it again. Go see them and make them rich.

BEST YEARS: 1992-present

Wally: Shadow 15 - Cousin It comes to mind when describing this marriage of Joy Division and Judas Priest, and I’m not talking about the Nashville hardcore band from the 90’s. I’m talking long hair and lots of it. And they featured a women lead guitarist in a non-exploitative way (take that stupid old Nashville Pussy). They put out one fine full-length cassette and a mini lp. The biggest show I saw them play was at the War Memorial Auditorium where a couple of punks got kicked out for fighting during the band’s cover of “Breaking The Law”. Chris Feinstein later played with Iodine. Barry Nelson needs to call the Feinstein brothers up and hit the reunion circuit. Damn, they were good.

DD: Shadow 15 - Longhaired rock and roll from Nashville that didn’t sound like Marshall Tucker or Mötley Crüe! Yeah, they might have been a grunge band if they had come along 5 years later, but they didn’t. They were a rock and roll band in the purest sense.

BEST YEARS: 1984-1987

Come On

DD: Government Cheese -I can’t go through the canned fruit section of the grocery store without singing the chorus of “Yellow Cling Peaches.” When I had lunch at school with my elementary school age cousins, I was secretly hoping that it was “Fish Stick Day.” Government Cheese came out of Bowling Green to give us a well-needed dose of fun.


Wally: Government Cheese - Tommy Womack led this highly charged act from Bowling Green to Nashville superstardom. I loved “The Shrubbery’s Dead Where Danny Used To Fall” and “Mammaw Drives The Bus”. I was very impressed when they played a cover of Jim Carroll’s “People That Died” the first time I saw them. Is drummer Joe Elvis still deejaying? These fellows had longevity too. The last time I remember seeing them was after the Gulf War in the Toot’s parking lot in the ‘boro playing a Memorial Day party. Oh, Womack’s The Cheese Chronicles is a great rock and roll book and is highly recommended. I love the part about their first NYC visit where they ended up sleeping in Grand Central Station. Rumors abound that a sequel is being written.


BEST YEARS: 1986-1995

WALLY: The Movement - When Dolly Parton's cousin Richie Owens got tired of trying to make it in heavy metal with Placid Fury (what a name!!) he started a neo-psychedelic group named The Movement who put out one brilliant ep on Richie's Neo Records in 1985. “Together We Can Survive”! They were ubiquitous for about a year mining that 60's Yardbirds style beat until they broke up into oblivion, although Richie was rumored to be seen in overalls working at Dollywood a few years later. He is a very highly regarded dobro player these days and I believe he also led a group called Richie Owens and the Farm Bureau.

DD: The Movement - I was never that hot for these guys until the City Without A
compilation. With a great hook and a beat you might want to
dance to; "Lost Horizon" was the kind of song that you never forget.
Lead man Richie Owens has turned up lately writing and recording songs
with former Knoxville mainstay Brian Waldschlager. Both have toured
from time to time as the back-up band for Richie's cousin Dolly Parton.

BEST YEARS: 1984-1986


Wally: Crop Circle Hoax - A 90’s act on the list! They played all the time in the mid 90’s but I never saw them live until I ended up on the same bill during the last weekend series of shows at Lucy’s Record Shop. They were awesome in a tender Yo La Tengo kind of way. Their music would not be out of place on a Hal Hartley movie soundtrack. Everybody needs a girl “that hangs the planets”.

DD: Crop Circle Hoax - It seems like I may have seen these guys in Knoxville
a couple of times, but the time that I remember most was at Lucy's
Record Store right before it shut down. It was great in a Yo La Tengo
sort of indie-pop way, i.e. something that I never grow tired of.


BEST YEARS: 1995-1998


Wally: The Enemy /Royal Court of China - Joe Blanton graduated from the Ratz to the Enemy who terrorized Nash Vegas for far too short a time. Their most famous tune’s lyrics were stolen from a telephone pole flier called “Jesus Rides A UFO” put up by some local religious itinerant. Perhaps that’s an apocryphal story, but the song sure rocked. The Enemy became Royal Court of China roundabout 1986 and put out one stellar ep “Off The Beaten Path” with 91 Rock fave “Forget Me Nots” garnering airplay. Management juggernaut Grace Reinbold threw her weight behind the boys and got them a deal with A&M where they released a charming and evocative debut which went nowhere so the husky voiced Blanton turned them into a metal band that put out the ridiculously bad “Geared and Primed”. Sweet oblivion was soon to follow. Blanton resurfaced in the 90’s with a pathetic attempt to become a country artist. Just like Ron Keel did. Nowadays he’s fronting another hard rock band, Door No. 2, out of Florida.

DD: The Enemy /Royal Court of China - I remember reading about how the Enemy sort of morphed into RCC, so I am including them together. “Jesus Rides a UFO” was a street corner poem that was immortalized by the Enemy and after JT Blanton moved on to the band RCC, he started writing his own lyrics and boy did he have some great songs. Let’s never forget “Forget Me Nots.”

BEST YEARS: 1984-1987

Be sure and look for the final installment of Nashville Rock which should be up soon.


mike said...

I've never seen the RCC ep! I'd love to find a copy of it, or at least "Forget Me Nots." That first RCC album I still enjoy playing. The G&P album is good in its own way. You can still hear the first album's sound deep inside.

Didn't RCC, or part of it, morph into a pure metal band called Gunhead or something? I remember a Village Voice ad about them long ago that mentioned RCC.

I saw Webb Wilder play the first Sloss Furnace Kudzu Festival in Birmingham in the mid-80's. After their set, they mentioned it was someone in the band's birthday. Co-headliners Guadalcanal Diary (from Athens, GA, around the time of REM, B-52s, etc.) came out and the whole group did this slow-grinding, burning-hot jam version of "Johnny B. Goode." The place went wild.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

You should have mentioned that Webb Wilder has a new CD coming out in March. About Time

Wally Bangs said...

I added a blurb about the About Time album.

The first RCC album is a hard find even in the state of Tennessee. Once I upgrade my home computer later this year, I should be able to transfer it over to disc.

bklyntexas said...

did i miss Guilt in the stroll back in time? and Wishcraft? and Rumble Circus? come on, can't leave these bands out of the "city without a subway" history. which reminds me also of Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams. and then there's Mr. "Little Sister" himself, Edmond. everyone knew Edmond whether they wanted to or not. and Steve Earle released Copperhead Road between stints in rehab back then.

Wally Bangs said...

I namedrop Guilt and Rumble Circus in part four. I never mentioned Wishcraft. They just slipped my mind. Johnny Panic were mentioned in one of the parts of my history. I've got their record. Great group. I left Steve Earle off since I considered him more of a country artist. I don't have a clue who Mr. "Little Sister" Edmond is. Please enlighten me.

charlie said...

Conspicuously missing from your
nashville rock "history," is one of the most incredible performing and recording artists nashville ever saw...who headlined for most of the bands you've mentioned...who toured europe and the u.s. for 6 years and who played every club in nashville over and over again between '83 and '94...who cut three albums that garnered airplay on thousands of college radio stations...who played the new music seminar 5 times...who pissed on/off practically every podunk "music critic" in town...who
thumbed their noses (and other parts of the anatomy) at pundits from the Nashville Scene and The Metro (specifically, gus "dumb ass" palas)...who swung a live cow from the ceiling @ 328 performance hall... who had naked midgets, fire-breathing beavers, humpty fucking dumpty, people dressed up like waffles, 16 mm/vhs/slide projections all over the place, fat guys in pink spandex slam dancing people in the pits, 12 different incarnations of themselves as opening acts, multiple felonies, surround sound cacophany, pot-bellied pigs running lose in the audience, goat fashion shows and lesbian rodeos...who had their audience wrestling in oatmeal, playing tennis with fish, catching cow tongues and goat heads, bathing in champagne and glitter and jello and spit...who packed out cantrell's, 328, 3 cat's records live shows, 6 WRVU shows, and every venue on the rock block for 5 years running...

if you still don't know who i'm talking about, then YOU know jack-shit about nashville music history.

Wally Bangs said...

The band Charlie is talking about has to be Grinning Plowman who DO are listed in with a bunch of other bands at the end of part 4. I personally thought they sucked, but to each his own. I do love your gus "dumb ass" palas quote though.

charlie said...

"...To each his own," indeed.

However, if your intent is to document historical events and relevant personalities along a particular space/time coordinate
(i.e., the music scene of Nashville, TN. during the last two decades of the 20th century), then, for the sake of informational clarity, documentary accuracy and intellectual integrity, personal bias is simply NOT a significant factor.

If, on the other hand, your intent is to delineate a list of the bands you personally liked...why not just title your blog something like,

"Bands I Liked"

That way, you will be more appropriately categorized as a "fan site," and won't come off resembling an aspiring, half-assed arm chair historian.

Wally Bangs said...

Look dude, the Grinning Plowman did get mentioned in Part Four which you don't seem to have read. The introduction in Part 1 clearly states that my friend DD and I were to come up with twenty bands we thought were great. If the intent had been to give an historical background to all of Nashville rock and roll post 1978 then The Grinning Plowman would merit more than just listing at the end of part 4. I might get around to that someday; hell I might even write a book about the era.

If you're so chuffed at their omission, then why don't you devote a website or a blog to them. A quick Google inquiry shows that there aren't that many people that interested in them.

charlie said...

"A quick Google inquiry shows that there aren't that many people that interested in them."

And a quick Google search of 90% of the bands that YOU mention shows the same fucking thing (except most of THEM don't even have product still available, the world over, for distribution).

In any case, we were talking about defunct Nashville bands, i.e., pre-search engine technology.

Here's my point (so simple even you might get it):

Historical RELEVENCE.

The Grinning Plowman,
whether you liked them or not, entertained MILLIONS of people (locally, nationally and internationally), with their music and live performances. In truth, they probably pissed off about as many people as they endeared. But they were EFFECTIVE.

And yet, to this very day, if you ask anyone who was around Nashville at the time what they know/heard about The Grinning will likely get some wild, wild stories (half true, half rumor). And herein lies the most salient difference: The Grinning Plowman, unlike every other band you have mentioned, attained mythological proportions.

This is the crucial difference.

This is a band that left an indelible piss-stain upon the "Music City" scene of politically-conservative, anal-rententive, ass-kissing, good-ole-boy-network affiliates comprised of mediocre musicians, money-grubbing promoters, and pud-thumping critics... all of whom
disliked The Grinning Plowman for being both uncategorical and POPULAR.

Little wonder that the band was more readily embraced by people with
academic intelligence, an avant garde aesthetic, and an out-of-state tuition at Vanderbilt. You see, people NOT from Nashville tend to think of Nashville bands and the Nashville "music scene" as (how can I put this charitably?)...

Redneck and inbred.

In conclusion, the Nashville "music scene" of 1978-2000 was lorded over by a network of cow-punked, pock-marked, barely-literate hicks who wound up being no different than their country music cousins (literally, geneological evidence supports the conclusion that most of them were inter-related) who made their fortunes in the exploitation of aspiring musicians who came to town, spent their life's savings on Music Row, and dreamed of success.

There's your genuine Nashville music history.

There's the pathetic truth of the Nashville "music scene."

Wally Bangs said...

Yep, the Grinning Plowman were iconoclasts - insurance agents by day and rockers by night - at least one of them was for sure.

I tried to write about bands I knew about or had seen live. I did mention the Grinning Plowman at the end of Part 4 because, indeed, they were a big part of Nashville rock during the 80's and early 90's.

This is a band that left an indelible piss-stain upon the "Music City" scene of politically-conservative, anal-rententive, ass-kissing, good-ole-boy-network affiliates comprised of mediocre musicians, money-grubbing promoters, and pud-thumping critics... all of whom
disliked The Grinning Plowman for being both uncategorical and POPULAR.

Except perhaps the reason they didn't get to play as many shows in Nashville was the nature of their theatrical stage show. I wouldn't a pig dangling from the ceiling if I was a club owner.

The Shazam are a Nashville band that is popular in Europe that can't attract a crowd in Nashville and their music is much more mainstream. Nashville is notoriously bad when it comes to producing audiences for shows.

At the end of Part 4 I ask folks for their list of best bands and I'm glad you brought up the Plowman, but frankly I'm getting tired of this discussion.


blue o' clocK said...

at least claim to like echo and the bunnymen.

here's some more good music:

moody blues - blue guitar
angelo badalamenti - pink room
the cure - sinking
r.em. - perfect cirle

Anonymous said...

Review: Nothing Is Ever What It Is by Blue O' Clock

Once upon a time in Nashville a revolutionary band named the Grinning Plowman acheived alot of local, as well as national college radio and Overseas success with the records "Days of Deformity' and "I Play Jupiter". A third record was recorded but by 1994 their label Carlye was out of business and other chaos broke up the band.Fast forward to 2000 a mysterious band named Blue O' Clock appear on the scene breifly and self release the brillant third Grinning Plowman record "Nothing Is Ever what it Is". No this wasn't the original Plowman, but a revamped line up featuring former members of Freon Dream and Needles as well as the mastermind behind the Plowman, Michael Ake. They played several shows and then like all great bands of course,retired. If this record would have came out when it was originally recorded Nashville rock history might be a completley different story. This ahead of its time industrial/ goth band were one of the better of this whole genre of music in my opinion. Anyway, there's twelve songs of sonically challenging original music from "secret sugar frosting to synthetic flux, a true auditory adventure of industrial music that could be compared to a cross between bauhaus, the cure, and NIN, but everybit as original as the above mentioned legendary acts, FYI, NIN manager actually stole the drummer in a cage idea from these guys while courting them, but this slimey major label tactic is an entirely different story. I love every second of this record, but i'm biased cause this is one of my desert island discs if you will. However, even though this is old and you'll never get the chance to see these guys play again i felt a responsibility of giving this tremendous release it's proper due. there's been several acts that almost broke open the nashville rock scene and these guys were as close as anyone. Ask around about the legendary Grinning Plowman live shows you won't believe your ears, i promise, some of their shows have become nashville urban legends. You can find some of these songs on under the name Blue O' Clock, and if your lucky you might be able to score a copy of this record. I seriously doubt we'll ever get to see another concert and believe me thats all of our loss.But great music never dies..........

Anonymous said...

whoever wrote that last jag was a pretty sincere human being.

Anonymous said...

whoever wrote the last one was not

Rev. Keith A. Gordon said...

Although I would agree with Charlie that the Grinning Plowman was an original and entertaining band, to hold them up as the end-all, be-all of Nashville rock is pretty narrow-minded in itself. First of all, it is unlikely that they played to "millions" of people worldwide. Jason & the Scorchers toured more than just about anybody in town (except for maybe the Cactus Brothers) and even they didn't play before "millions" of people...a few hundred thousand, maybe a single million tops. Secondly, to compare bands and artists as diverse and different from each other as the Scorchers, Civic Duty, Will Kimbrough, Max Vague, Afrikan Dreamland, Threk Michaels, Tommy Womack, the Shakers, Jet Black Factory and Royal Court Of China, to name but a few (circa 1976-2006) to the dreck being mass-produced on Music Row shows a lack of knowledge of the scene. To call any of these talents "barely-literate hicks" says to me that you've been huffing too much glue while listening to the Plowman. Just my opinion, that of another "pud thumping critic." You'll find more at

Anonymous said...

Well, Mr. Gordon, guess what?

The combination of your lack of aesthetic sensibility, and the fact that you are a boring writer have always been the primary reasons why you have never comprehended the Nashville music scene, much less gotten anybody else interested in it.

Matter of fact, I'd say people like you, so moved to introduce the outside world to Nashville band, is precisely the reason no one fucking listened.

And no doubt due to your frequent public episodes of alcoholic hazes, and your despicable (once again, public) groveling at the feet of dumbass bands (e.g., Royal Catshit of China, Afrikan Bore-my-ass-off-Land, and anything that utterly talentless Rebecca Stout ever did), coupled with the incomparable degree of schmoozing you did, during those years, to advance your own sad career...all such events fatefully conspired to render you a third-rate hack job who still trolls the clubs looking for free drugs in exchange for a favorable critique.

Even those bands who you happened to like hardly ever fared any better, especially after your inane and puerile recommendations.

Anonymous said...

I just read through this blog and I gotta say whoever anonymous is is a fucking genius.

I know nothing about this band, the grinning plowmen, never heard their music, but this writer uses language like a neurosurgeon with an exacto.

He totally tore everyone else's ass off with an extremely caustic wit, and almost surgical concision, and precision literacy.

I have no dogs in this hunt, as it were, but I am glad to see expressions of genuine brilliance wherever they are expressed.

Wally Bangs said...

Anonymous really, really likes The Grinning Plowmen. And he definitely could write well. I miss them.